1. Writing papers in the summer is harder than other things because I spend all my time during the academic year writing lectures, reports, grants, and other "scholarly" items,.
Evidence: Lacking. Frankly, if this hypothesis were true, one would anticipate that the cessation of these duties at the end of the Spring Semester would leave me with enough time to get the papers written and find that gratifying. That clearly is not the case. Moreover, the evolution of the University is such that there really is no end to the paperwork, grants, and reports I and my colleagues have to write. Next hypothesis?
2. Getting papers done during the summer is harder than other things because those "other things" feed parts of my psyche that tend to suffer from neglect during the academic year.
Evidence: Well, I spend the whole academic year shuffling appointments, school events, laboratory time, committee meetings, personal time, teaching, family time, and "me" time to the point that the stress of cramming all that stuff into every day, week , and month gets a bit discouraging. Admittedly, over the years my boundaries have become pretty clear; I simply take time for my husband, family, and self, and am breaking the night, weekend and holiday insidious email habit, but it ain't easy. When summer comes and the kids get out of school, the freedom of losing a few standing meetings until the Fall, combined with enjoying hugs and breakfast with my kids before getting moving to work (at home or the office) is renewing and wonderful.
Reflecting on the past several summers (since having kids 9 years ago), I realize that I *do* get the papers done, only it's by the end of the summer, not the middle. I also end up getting some unexpected things done as well- for example, although those papers are not gone, I have a new collaboration formed over a conversation I had with a colleague at a professional meeting, that's blossomed into a new, funded project. Equally importantly, I've made the time to hang out with my parents more and help my daughter learn to ride her bike without training wheels. All this, and June isn't even over yet!
So there appears to be support for hypothesis #2. Breaks in the academic year are not only times of catch-up and enrichment professionally, but they have to be personally as well.
The big caveat here is not to put off personal or professional goals during the academic year in favor of summer; this is a recipe for disaster. First, it provides a nearly insurmountable morass of work for you to do during the summer. As parents, we know that a big part of parenting is providing environments in which our kids can succeed if they put their minds to it- we have do to the same things for ourselves. Secondly, putting of personal goals until the summer can backfire as well- neglecting relationships, correspondence, or physical or mental health issues can create holes too large to be filled during the 3 month summer. I had the tragic experience of delaying a letter I owed to an old friend for several months as I was "too busy at work"; he died unexpectedly in May. I will never make that mistake again.
What's the take-home message for me in this analysis?
1. I need to take the time to refill my tank after the academic year ends.
2. Getting the papers done by the end, rather than the middle, of the summer may be just fine.
3. I must make space for professional and personal creativity and joy.
4. Living in the present is critical- putting off things is of no benefit, and I have to remind myself, that as my PhD advisor says, "You'll never be on your deathbed saying 'I should have spent more time in the lab.'"
This last quote used to seem so trite, but wow, he's right. The older I get, the smarter he gets. I'll have to let him know that- right now.